Love is a Verb (Not a Noun)

(Special contribution by Jennifer Grant, author of our new picture book, Maybe God Is Like That Too).

When we’re honest with ourselves—and with God—we have to admit that we’re not always “feeling it” in our faith. Sometimes we toss and turn at night, tangled in our fears, and regrets. We scan tragic news headlines and wonder if God has abandoned our world—or is, at least, on some kind of extended vacation. There are painful, private moments when we even wonder if God exists at all. And yet, we long for our children to hold fast to their faith and to grow up rooted in God’s love. Is it false to talk to them about God’s presence when we’re feeling uncertain ourselves?

In his book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene H. Peterson writes:

“We live in what one writer has called the ‘age of sensation.’ We think that if we don’t feel something there can be no authenticity in doing it. But the wisdom of God says something different: that we can act ourselves into a new way of feeling much quicker than we can feel ourselves into a new way of acting.”

Wait! Is Peterson saying, “Fake it ‘til you make it?” Well…maybe. That is, our feelings —whether for our spouses, children, parents, neighbors, or for our God—wax and wane. Exhaustion, stress, and discouragement can dampen our positive emotions, leaving us feeling irritable and hollowed out, even detached from those whom we love the most.

But, as Peterson insists, we can choose our actions despite our emotions. We can decide to be on the lookout, with our children, for signs of God’s presence. We can take a moment to notice the beauty of creation, whether it’s a sky painted in rich orange and purple at sunset or an act of kindness between strangers. We can open ourselves to hearing God’s voice by holding fast to Scripture, reading the Bible with our children. We can choose to commit verses to memory, words that will offer hope and reassurance to our children and to ourselves, over the course of our lifetimes. Verses such as Joshua 1:9, which reads:

“….be strong and brave! Don’t be afraid and don’t panic, for I, the LORD your God, am with you in all you do.”

Actions don’t have to follow emotions, but—as Peterson writes—they can precede them, allowing us to model a healthy, authentic faith to our children, even at those times when we aren’t “feeling it.”

 

Jennifer Grant is a writer and speaker in the Chicago area. The mother of four, she is wife to bicycle-obsessed David and the author of five books for adults including the memoir Love You More and the 365-daybook Wholehearted Living. Her first picture book for children, Maybe God Is Like That Too, is an exploration of the fruit of the spirit and tells the story of a grandmother helping her young grandson see signs of God’s presence all around him. More at jennifergrant.com.

Originally Published 3/14/2017

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